Take a deep breath for anxiety right now, then ask yourself how many times you took a deep breath today. What about this past week? I've been engaging in self-reflection about my breathing this past week, and I was surprised to find that I had no idea how many deep breaths I'd taken. I enjoy meditating and have found deep breathing helpful for staying calm when I'm handling a lot of stress, but I haven't made a conscious effort to breathe deeply in recent weeks. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became that deep breathing is not just a great way to relax, but our breath is how we communicate with our anxiety.
Much of our lives are governed by habit, and sometimes the habit of anxious avoidance. What we do when we wake up, when we go to work, how we work, what we eat, even who we spend time with. We learn these habits in part because we identify actions that make us feel good and then repeat them. Habits are also formed because of the negative outcomes we associate with actions, and anxiety is just about the best habit creator we have.
Social media and anxiety have a relationship although we're not quite sure what it entails. Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: You're at work, at home, or on the train between the two, and you pop onto social media. You go down the rabbit hole, and 15 minutes later you realize you've been immersed in this virtual platform without noticing the time passing by. And strangely, despite feeling fine during this immersion, you find yourself feeling worse after you're finished. You're likely experiencing the relationship between social media and anxiety.
Did you know that you can use your diet to reduce anxiety? Certain lifestyle and diet changes can reduce your anxiety when other strategies haven't completely worked for you. Even if you've created a calming space in your home, you've slowed down your anxiety, and you've cultivated self-kindness, using your diet to reduce anxiety may be the one thing you're missing.
You can reduce anxiety at home by creating a calming space that's easy to get to and helps you to relax.
It's important to know how to reduce anxiety fast because sometimes it feels like your anxiety builds up too quickly to do anything about it. Like you were feeling ok one minute and then suddenly felt extremely anxious? This is a common experience, and it often starts with something going just a little bit different than we might like.
The importance of being anxious? Alright, I get what you're thinking -- George made a mistake in his title. Who really thinks it's important to have anxiety, right? Well, to my surprise (and likely yours too), I've realized that anxiety is the best teacher, and knowing how to learn without anxiety is actually one of the most important skills you can develop if "being anxious" is what you do.
Understanding your anxiety and yourself can be really challenging. Last week I wrote about techniques to avoid labeling yourself as anxious, and as a strange continuation, today I want to share the value I see in using labels to overcome anxiety by understanding your anxiety's source. Here's a question you may not have considered: how do you know whether a thought is a product of you, or of your anxiety? Now, the easy answer is that it's both -- our minds defy simple categorization, and our thoughts are the same. But I think distinguishing between behaviors and thoughts that result from anxiety and from our preferences is a crucial strategy for understanding your anxiety so you can move past it. Let's walk through an example to illustrate why.
Does anxiety define you? Do experiences determine who we are? These are questions that have been bugging me for the past week as I've talked to friends who experience anxiety and read about others who do as well. For many, reaching out to a therapist or even just feeling anxiety frequently leads them to define themselves by anxiety. Anxiety shifts from an experience they have to a label that globally identifies them as "disordered" or "messed up," and these negative labels, in turn, can exacerbate anxiety.
Exposure therapy can reduce the severity of phobias and anxiety. Learn more about exposure therapy and what you can do to implement it to reduce your anxiety.